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Democratic Republic of the Congo – update May 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 4, May 2022
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During the first week of April, governmental military forces regained control of several localities in Bwisha, North Kivu, previously in the hands of M23.[1] The group had resumed their activities at the end of March and captured various villages in North Kivu. On 6 April, M23 indicated they would withdraw in order to “facilitate the signing of a bilateral ceasefire and the opening of dialogue with the DR Congo government,” and that they would hand over the captured soldiers to the International Committee of the Red Cross.[2] Despite this, clashes were recorded the following week in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu province.[3]

Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacks continued, including a suspected attack in Masambo village, North Kivu, which killed over a dozen people on 3 April.[4] Between 10-11 April 30 civilians were killed in attacks in Ituri Province, according to the Red Cross. The villages attacked are just outside of Drakpa town where 14 civilians, including seven children, were killed in a camp for displaced people in late March.[5] In mid-April, in a joint DRC-Ugandan operation between, accompanied by MONUSCO peacekeepers, took control of ADF bases in Mount Hoyo.[6]

In Djugu territory, Ituri province, attacks from the Cooperative for Development of Congo (CODECO) continued, on 5 April, they clashed with a joint DRC military and MONUSCO force[7] On 25 April, 16 people, including nine soldiers, went to trial accused of selling weapons to the group.[8]

The East African Community (EAC), which the DRC joined last month, initiated peace talks between local militias and the government. The first round took place during the last week of April, nearly 30 representatives from armed groups of Ituri, North and South Kivu took part. The ADF was not invited.[9] Representatives from the M23 group were expelled after the first day after news of renewed fighting in Rutshuru.[10]  Kenyan President Kenyatta led the talks and called on the groups “to lay down their weapons and work with President Felix Tshisekedi in nurturing peace and stability.”[11] The seven member states of the EAC agreed to set up a regional military force in the DRC.[12]

There was a sharp decline in recorded events of violence against civilians as well as battles during April, when compared to March, and it represents the lowest in the last 12 months.[13]

Context

Eastern Congo has been plagued by violence for more than two decades. More than 120 militias and armed groups are active in eastern DRC. A state of siege was declared in May 2021 and is still in place in north-eastern DRC in response to the violence.

Since April 2017, ADF has reportedly been responsible for the deaths of at least 2300 people and the abduction of 900, according to KST. Bombings in neighbouring Uganda during October and November 2021 paved the way for a joint Congolese-Ugandan military operation against ADF. Many continue to believe Uganda has ulterior motives for intervention.[14]

CODECO is a coalition of militia founded in the 1970s, in recent years the group started engaging in armed attacks again with the objective of defending the Lendu population against the Hema. The Kivu Security Tracker reports that they are responsible for at least 529 violent deaths, over 200 abductions and at least 78 clashes since March 2021.[15]

The M23 or March 23 Movement are a fraction of National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), whom many were integrated into the Congolese army. They are of Tutsi ethnicity and have close ties to the Tutsi in neighbouring Rwanda.[16]

International response:

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, condemned the CODECO attack against MONUSCO that killed one blue helmet at the start of the month. He indicated that attacks against peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and requested Congolese authorities to hold those responsible accountable.[17] The UNSC expressed concern at the increase in armed group activity in the eastern provinces and called on all actors to end the violations and abuse of international human rights and humanitarian law.[18]

Both the AU and the UN backed the EAC peace talks as well as the creation of a regional peacekeeping force to deal with all armed groups who refuse dialogue.[19]

 

 

[1] ACLED Data, Regional Overview: Africa 2-8 April 2022, 13 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/13/regional-overview-africa-2-8-april-2022/

[2] All Africa, “Congo-Kinshasa: M23 Rebels Accept to Withdraw From Captured Positions to Allow for Negotiations,” 10 April 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202204100161.html

[3] Al Jazeera, “M23 rebels announce withdrawal from eastern DR Congo villages,” 10 April 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/10/m23-rebels-announce-withdrawal-from-dr-congo-villages

[4] Africa News, “ADF attack in eastern DRC leaves more than a dozen killed,” 5 April 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/05/adf-attack-in-eastern-drc-leaves-more-than-a-dozen-killed//

[5] The Defense Post, “30 Killed in Two Days of Attacks in DR Congo: Red Cross,” 11 April 2022, https://www.thedefensepost.com/2022/04/11/30-killed-attacks-dr-congo/

[6] ACLED Data, Regional overview: Africa 16-22 April, 28 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/28/regional-overview-africa-16-22-april-2022/

[7]  ACLED Data, Regional Overview: Africa 2-8 April 2022, 13 April 2022, https://acleddata.com/2022/04/13/regional-overview-africa-2-8-april-2022/

[8] The East African, “DR Congo soldiers on trial for selling arms to militia groups,” 26 April 2022, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/rest-of-africa/dr-congo-soldiers-on-trial-for-selling-arms-to-militia-3794864

[9]DW, “Few optimistic about DRC peace talks in Kenya,” 28 April 2022, https://www.dw.com/en/few-optimistic-about-drc-peace-talks-in-kenya/a-61620879

[10] Africa News, “DR Congo: M23 rebels absent as peace talks with rebel groups continue in Nairobi,” 25 April 2022, https://www.africanews.com/2022/04/25/dr-congo-m23-rebel-group-absent-as-peace-talks-with-rebel-groups-continue-in-nairobi//

[11] TRT World, “DRC, eastern rebels wrap up first round of peace talks in Kenya,” 28 April 2022, https://www.trtworld.com/africa/drc-eastern-rebels-wrap-up-first-round-of-peace-talks-in-kenya-56741

[12] Yahoo, “East African Community agrees on regional force to try to end Congo unrest,” 22 April 2022, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/east-african-community-agrees-regional-101840628.html

[13] ACLED Data

[14] France 24, “Ugandan mission in DR Congo opens old wounds, sparks new anxieties,” 2 December 2021, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20211202-ugandan-mission-in-dr-congo-opens-old-wounds- sparks-new-anxieties

[15] Kivu Security Tracker.

[16] Al Jazeera, “Q&A: Who are DR Congo’s M23 rebels?” 5 November 2013, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2013/11/5/qa-who-are-dr-congos-m23-rebels

[17] UN Secretary General, Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General – on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 5 April 2022, https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2022-04-05/statement-attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the-secretary-general-%E2%80%93-the-democratic-republic-of-the-congo%C2%A0scroll-down-for-french-version

[18] UNSC, Security Council Press Statement on Attack against United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, 5 April 2022, https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14855.doc.htm

[19] The East African, “AU, UN endorse new regional peace bid in DR Congo,” 26 April 2022, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/east-africa/au-un-endorse-new-regional-peace-bid-in-dr-congo-3795014

 

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